Review: Leonie Thorpe – Archie’s Adventures

Archie’s Adventures
Leonie Thorpe

Young Archie Roach is new in town and has nothing remarkable about him. At least he was famous for a hideous bone fracture at his last school… Doomed to obscurity, Archie’s life is filled with being a pathetic Roach – until he makes friends with a local smuggler.

Archie is a fine character, I’m not really sure what else to say. My partner’s mother got me to read this book – in fact she handed me two different copies at two different times! Honestly, I wasn’t that excited by it, because I’ve sworn off reading children’s fiction now. It’s fine as a novel, I’ve just moved past it, and my (female) young reader wouldn’t be interested in it.

It’s a typical ‘reluctant reader’ boy novel – fishing and football! But then there is a bit of sailing as well. Typical team building activities with an old man and a useless hanger-on. Anyway, I shouldn’t be so disparaging. This is why I can’t read children’s fiction any more! Unless it is Isobelle Carmody, and it’s The Red Wind series. Standby for a review of the newest novel, The Ice Maze.

Three stars from me. Fine for kids, not worth it for adults. Not enough ‘meat’ here to make it a chapter book to read at bedtime to your kids.

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Review: Bren MacDibble – How to Bee

How to Bee
Bren MacDibble

The bees have been killed and now only the bravest children pollinate the fruit trees by hand. It’s hard work, and only a select few are chosen. Peony’s mother thinks that the way forward is in the city, Peony knows that her place is with the other Bees.

In a future fiction, it’s possible this is going to become common place. Bees are dying out, and despite things such as the somewhat ill informed flower planting schemes by ?cereal? companies, unless we pick up our game with killing bees with pesticides and so forth. A world without fruit would be pretty miserable.

I liked the ending a lot. I liked the whole novel, but truely, the ending was fantastic. I loved how Peony stuck to her beliefs and her family. That girl knows what is important! It’s something that more people in the world could afford to learn…

I’m not going to suggest that this is a YA novel. There’s just not enough depth for that, and it’s not a reread so that’s why it’s not getting 5 stars from me. But it carries a very important message, it improves the current knowledge of young people. I could see it as an early highschool novel, and I’d love it a lot more than some other ‘Australian classics’ they stick teenagers with.

Allen & Unwin | 26th April 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Garth Nix – FROGKISSER!

FROGKISSER!
Garth Nix

Princess Anya always gets the responsibility of cleaning up after her sister’s messes. Unfortunately, she’s also trying to avoid her step-step father killing her off and taking the throne. When her step-step father makes yet another one of her sister’s wooers a frog, it’s up to Anya to save the day.

Who wouldn’t love a plucky heroine who really just wants to sit in her library and study sorcery? Oh wait, maybe that’s just me. No! I don’t think so. Nix has once again created a strong female character with a set of unique character flaws. She’s young enough to be appealing to young readers, but there are some in-jokes in the novel that teenagers would enjoy too.

I’m going to be handing over my copy of this novel to a 16 year old keen Garth Nix reader to see what he thinks. Is this novel particularly new and exciting? Is it adding something exciting to the genre of fairytales? Maybe is all I can say. It is certainly better than some of the other offerings out there, and if you like Garth Nix, you will probably still love this novel.

What you can’t see from the cover image is the glorious fluorescent yellow page edges. Check out my instagram to see them. It almost makes me want to put the book back-to-front on my bookshelf so that it can stand out!

I can see where this novel could easily become a series – there is reference to an overall set of Rules after all. But this novel was perfect in itself. This novel is far better than the other recent Nix novel, Newt’s Emerald, but not as good as Clariel or Goldenhand. I’m giving it 4 stars, although I would consider reading it again should a sequel appear.

Allen & Unwin | 22 February 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Steve Martin – Vet Academy

Vet Academy
Steve Martin

Do you have a child who loves animals? Do they want to be a vet? Do they just have an interest in pets in general? This book is going to be for them. With fun stickers, a poster and a model to build, this book has plenty of things to keep a child entertained.

This book covers animal health needs from pets, to zoos, to farms. It also has fun facts that will perk interest from adults as well. It could be a good book for a long car ride, because there are a range of activities to do.

The reading level in this book is probably a late primary school age, but you can also leave it with a beginning (precocious) reader who will flick through and look at the beautiful illustrations and then ask lots of questions!

This is a non-fiction, so I’m not going to be giving it any stars. But if you have a child who likes animals, or you need to give a gift to a primary school age child, this book is perfect. I can’t think of a child that wouldn’t enjoy having it, even if not all the animals take their fancy.

Allen & Unwin | 25th January 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Simon Holland – A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts
Simon Holland

Discover the spellbinding stories of sixteen favorite mythical creatures from around the world. Dragons and griffins through to mermaids and giants, this lovingly illustrated novel will be for you.

With gorgeous illustrations and catchy little bits of story about mythical creatures, this large format children’s book is going to suit a range of fantasy enthusiasts. Perhaps you aren’t ready to read a big book of mythology? Perhaps you just want to have a taster of it? This is the book for you.

Of course, my favourite part was bound to be about dragons, and there wasn’t enough detail here for me. But for a beginner, it’s a nice introduction.

This has got to be the perfect gift for the younger someone who wants to know more about mythology past JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I’ll be giving it to a 7 year old beginning reader who is simply going to love it.

Bloomsbury | 20th November 2016 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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Review: A.F. Harrold & Levi Pinfold – The Song From Somewhere Else

The Song From Somewhere Else
A.F. Harrold & Levi Pinfold

Frank is bullied by Noble, who is anything but noble. When Nick, stinky, ostracised Nick, comes to her rescue, it seems unkind (despite being unwise) to not at least spend some time in his company. At his house, Frank hears music that she can’t ignore… but it comes from a most unexpected place.

29785301A fantasy twist on a bullying story, Frank is a character that you will love and want to protect in the beginning. By the end, you might wonder a bit where her spunk has come from, but I personally think it rubbed off from Nick. An innocuous missing cat can start off a range of interworld connections that lead to a better end than could have been imagined.

Oh, did I mention that it’s a beautiful hard cover that has an equally attractive dust jacket, and includes illustrations? I admit, I mainly looked at the illustrations before I got too caught up in the story to pay attention. I think I’d like to go back and look at them now though.

This is what I wanted Little Bits of Sky to be. It’s a whimsical but compelling novel that is suitable for younger readers, but has a splash of creepy just for good measure! I’m giving it 4 stars – I think it could be a great Christmas gift for someone who enjoys both fantasy and teenage fiction.

4star

Bloomsbury | 1st December 2016 | AU $24.99 | Hardback

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Review: Jessica Watson & Dougal Macpherson – Introducing Teddy

Introducing Teddy
Jessica Watson & Dougal Macpherson

Teddy is keeping a big secret from Thomas, and Teddy is worried that Thomas won’t understand and might not like him anymore. Will Teddy be accepted as Tilly?

27158837There’s not very much I can write about a children’s novel so small. Oh, but how will I convey how impressed I am with this?

In a world where transgender individuals are gradually getting the rights they deserve, this novel is how to introduce children from a young age that some people aren’t born into the right bodies for their brains.

It’s sensitive, simple and something that younger readers (maybe grade 1 or 2) will be able to read by themselves (with adult guidance for the contents). The language is straight-forward, and the message of acceptance is clear.

With any children’s book, I’m not sure whether to recommend you buy it, or borrow it from the library as it may only get one read, depending on the age of your child. I received a paperback and a hard copy version, and I donated the hard copy one to my library. Well worth having in a collection of children’s books.

5star

Bloomsbury | June 2016 | $24.99 | Hardback

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Review: Richard Roxburgh – Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave
Richard Roxburgh

Artie is always being bullied, along with his rather unfortunately-named pal, Bumshoe. While a shout of ‘Rabbits’ often distracts his dumb tormentors, this time it seems like Artie has gotten into more trouble than he can cope with. With Mary, Funnel-Web and Budgie on his tail, he needs to make things happen… fast.

31927285In the tradition of ‘The Day My Bum Went Psycho’ and ‘The Adventures of Captain Underpants’, this novel contains bums, snot and disgusting boys! If you have a reader that is into that kind of thing, they are going to love this novel.

The action is fast-paced, and the characters such strong caricatures that they will leave some sort of impression in your mind. If you have a weak stomach, and aren’t fond of snot or poop, this probably won’t be for you. There’s bodily fluids flying everywhere!

Honestly, it’s not my kind of novel at all, I didn’t request it to my knowledge. I wouldn’t have read this when I was younger, and the only reason I read this was because I knew my brain would be dead and incapable of digesting good literature after a hard day at work.

Let’s give it 3 stars, and know that there is a deserving audience out there that will enjoy this novel.

3star

Allen & Unwin | 12th September 2016| AU $16.99 | Paperback

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Review: Katherine Rundell – The Wolf Wilder

The Wolf Wilder
Katherine Rundell

Feodora is a trainee Wolf Wilder – someone who retrains wolves to understand living in the wild instead of being pampered pets of the nobility. Unfortunately the wolves she and her mother rehabilitate are too good at going wild again – killing farm animals gets them into trouble with the Tsar, and Feo’s mother is taken away for sentencing to death.

30234552This is told in the style of a fairy tale, which I appreciated. The novel is bookended by short sections that tell us what happened when we aren’t looking from Feo’s perspective. There is a hint of Russian culture, although there could have been more of this. I honestly can say I’m interested in Russia and it has a unique environment that I like (maybe it’s the snow?).

In a way, this reminded me of Dog Boy. This is of course, more of a children’s book, but I enjoyed it because of the way humans and animals like dogs and wolves can interact. There’s something about wolves that just excites me, perhaps because they are wild in a way that other things aren’t. You can’t tame those teeth!

Some other reviewers have complained that the story is boring and predictable. But I’m thinking that they have forgotten what age group this is aimed at. There’s hints of rape, which older readers will pick up, and certainly some blood, but it’s suitable for younger readers. I’d say it’s no worse than a Grimm fairytale! And it’s written in a modern way which works.

For what this novel is, I will happily give it 4 stars. I wasn’t bored, I enjoyed the writing and I find it hard to say no to a novel about a plucky (although somewhat sometimes stupid) heroine and her wolves.

4star

Bloomsbury | 1st October 2016 | AU $12.99| Paperback

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Review: Sue Durrant – Little Bits of Sky

Little Bits of Sky
Sue Durrant

Ira, short for Miracle, is a care kid, as is her brother. For years, they trade between homes until they come to an orphanage where the gardener is the nicest person there! But everyone deserves a happy ending…

25901616

What am I missing? Seriously. Goodreads is full of positive reviews for this novel, going so far as to call it a ‘Modern Classic’. I was left underwhelmed by this novel. I’m not sure what I missed that should have made it a brilliant novel. I guess I didn’t get attached to Ira in any way, and Zac wasn’t any better.

There are other orphanage novels that are more interesting than this one. For that matter, there are plenty of children’s novels that are more interesting than this one. There just wasn’t anything super special. I’d choose Bridge to Terabithia for a similar level of reading – and hard truths.

I waver between giving this novel 2 to 3 stars. It’s not badly written, I finished reading it, yet I was left feeling like I had wasted that hour and a half of my life.

2star

Nosy Crow | 22 June 2016 | AU $14.99 | Paperback

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